Dissipated Marital Assets

Hiding Assets and Selling Property During Divorce

What can you do if your spouse has dissipated marital assets during your divorce, leaving nothing to be divided in the property settlement? Unfortunately, some husbands will go to extreme lengths to guarantee that their wives will get nothing in the divorce. If you're faced with this situation, read the suggestions from out financial advisor and legal expert.

What are my options to keep the assets safe while I'm gone?

Terri's Question: I think I may be heading for a divorce. I am going to visit a friend out of state and my husband purchased my ticket which is a one way ticket. He is sneaky, so I am getting prepared for the news. I am jobless, penniless and everything in our home is mine. All our furniture was given to us after the death of my mother and most recently my grandma. What are my options to keep the assets safe? I am really at a loss and don't even know where to start or what my rights are, or what his are. Any advice would be appreciated.

Brette's Reply: You need to consult with an attorney. Leaving the home would likely be a very bad idea at this point.

What if he ruined out finances after we separated?

Kelley Asks: My soon to be ex violated our Protective order by buying a new house and car that were paid for with marital assets. He has ruined our finances and may have taken out a home equity loan on our marital home. Our estate was worth a couple of million and now he claims poverty and wants to represent himself pro se. What recourse do I have?

Timothy Answers: The fact that your husband directly violated a court order is a serious issue that requires legal attention. Do yourself a favor and hire a good attorney right away if you don’t already have one! An attorney may be able to help you get back your share of your marital estate that was squandered by your husband. Unfortunately, this may require you to prepare to go to trial, which could be an extremely expensive endeavor.

You mentioned that your marital estate was worth a couple of million dollars and you are now in financial ruins. I would highly advise you to start gathering your financial documents that show what your marital estate was worth before and after your husband deliberately sold your joint assets for his own benefit. Rather than speculating about where your husband received his loan, you should check the registry of deeds in the county where his home is located. All legal documents – titles, mortgages, quit claim deeds – are matters of public record.

A good attorney can help you sort through all of your legal issues and be an advocate for you and your family’s needs. You might also want to think about hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or a Forensic Accountant to help you document your marital lifestyle and trace where the funds from the dissipated marital assets went. Since your husband is now claiming poverty, you may also need to document his ability to pay if spousal support will be an option in your divorce settlement.

Can I sell community assets to make ends meet?

Clara's Question: If the court entered a temporary restraining order to protect assets during the divorce, can the wife sell community assets to assist with care of her children and life expenses during the divorce if she has no income of her own?

Brette's Answer: You would need to get permission from the court to do that if the order covers the assets you want to sell. Even if the court allows you to sell assets, the proceeds are considered a marital asset to be divided in the divorce. You ought to be asking for child and spousal support so that isn't necessary.

Topic: Divorce Asset Search

Diane's Question: How do I find out if my husband has been "stashing" money in a hidden account prior to leaving? We were struggling financially and now he seems to have plenty of money even paying 1/2 our debt and rent elsewhere.

Brette's Answer: This would be something you would be able to obtain information about during the discovery phase of a divorce proceeding, or when you complete sworn financial affidavits. You also could try asking him, or going to mediation and discussing it there.

Can I stop him from selling property before we divorce?

Rebecca's Question: We acquired land five years ago and paid 2500 down. The land is only in his name, but for the last 5 years I have made the payments. Can he sell or transfer the title prior to our divorce?

Brette's Answer: You have to start a divorce case so the court has jurisdiction, then you ask for an order preventing him from selling during the case.

What if he says that all the severance pay is gone?

Barbara's Question: When my husband's employer closed the plant, my husband was given his 401K and six months of severance pay ($75,000). Instead of rolling over his 401K and paying expenses with the severance pay he cashed the checks and took the cash to his sister. Now he is saying that it is all gone. My question have they committed fraud against me?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like he dissipated marital assets or is attempting to hide funds. Either way, the money counts as a marital asset and will be divided in your divorce. Get a lawyer.

What should I do if he's taking stuff from the house?

Estelle's Question: My husband left me and plans to get half of the home value and furnishings. He has been removing items from the home, and is also removing tools which he acquired during the marriage. What can I do to stop this?

Brette's Answer: Items purchased during marriage are marital property. Go back to court and get an order prohibiting him from removing any marital assets. Take photos and make lists of all the contents of the home. This will provide proof of what he has taken. Also, make a note on your calendar for the day you saw him leave with them. Report this to your attorney, so that the items can be itemized and a value assigned. The amount will be subtracted from his share of the marital property.

Will I be able to get the cash back that he took out of the safe?

Gil's Question: We are in the process of divorce. My husband took $85,000.00 cash out of our personal safe, and I have proof that it exists. Can I get this cash back?

Brette's Answer: If the cash is a marital asset, it will be divided in the property division.

What happens if he sells property before we get a divorce?

Jen's Question: My husband has a business that he has said he will give to someone before he let me have part of it. What am I entitled to if he sells or signs it over to someone before we get a divorce?

Brette's Answer: It's a marital asset and he'll be held responsible for reimbursing you if he gives it away. It sounds like you should get an attorney.

Will I get reimbursed if he sells stuff before the divorce is over?

Question: If he were to sell anything before the divorce is finalized, will I get anything out of it?

Brette's Answer: Everything either of you bought or earned during the marriage is a marital asset and will be considered as part of the property settlement. If these items are sold, the value of that item is included in what has to be divided.

What can be done if he sold the house while we were separated?

E's Question: We have been separated for 13 months. I just found out that my ex sold the house (probably to a friend) for less than $100000. He probably got the rest in cash. What can be done about this when I file for divorce?

Brette Answers: If this was marital property, he will be held accountable for the sale in the property division. He'll owe you your portion of it.

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